NÜRNBERG, Germany -- Americans Madison Brengle and Christina McHale kicked off the Nürnberger Versicherungs Cup with straight-set first-round wins on Sunday.
Brengle dispatched compatriot Varvara Lepchenko, 6-1, 6-3, to advance to the second round. McHale joined Brengle there with a 6-2, 7-6(5) victory over Zheng Saisai of China.
Also moving into the second round on Sunday was Spain's Lara Arruabarrena, who moved past German wild card Katharina Hobgarski, 7-6(6), 6-1.
World No.98 Brengle dominated the 65-minute match, typically dictating points with her strong backhand, while 89th-ranked Lepchenko’s left-handed forehand caused many problems for herself, often sending unforced errors long off of that wing. Brengle also won 56 percent of the points when returning Lepchenko’s serve.
"I’m happy to definitely get a win here -- it’s my first time playing here, so far I really enjoy it, and the stadium court’s really nice," Brengle said, following her win. "[Clay] is maybe not my favorite surface, but I feel like I’ve gotten better at it over the years."
Brengle picked up an initial 2-0 lead by forcing a wide Lepchenko error with a bruising backhand. Lepchenko was struggling mightily on return in the opening frame, and missed three service returns in the fifth game of the set, allowing Brengle to hold easily for a 4-1 advantage.
Another wide forehand miscue by Lepchenko gave Brengle three break chances to claim a 5-1 lead. Although Lepchenko saved one with a powerful forehand, another costly error off that side on the second opportunity gave Brengle the break, and allowed the Delaware native to serve for the set. Brengle closed out the set in the next game with minimal fuss.
Brengle opened up another 3-1 lead in the second set, but Lepchenko started to turn her game around, crushing consecutive clean forehand winners to hold for 3-2 and stay within striking distance. This paid dividends when Lepchenko finally broke Brengle, stealing her service game at love to even the set at 3-3.
Brengle, however, immediately broke Lepchenko back for a 4-3 lead. Brengle then saved a break point in the next game, surviving three deuces before holding. The wind went out of Lepchenko’s sails after that, and she quickly fell behind triple match point while serving at 5-3. Brengle only needed one shot, demolishing a backhand service return for an untouched winner to complete the contest.
McHale had a slightly more difficult time with Zheng. McHale had four double faults in the match, to Zheng's one, but the World No.87 from the United States won 56 percent of points on Zheng's second serve, and broke the young Chinese player four times en route to victory.
"I haven’t had the best clay swing, so this week is definitely important for me to try and get matches before Roland Garros," McHale said, following the match.
After not being broken in the opening set, McHale was twice up a break in the second set before allowing Zheng, currently ranked World No.132, to level the set both times. McHale also led 4-2 in the second-set tiebreak before Zheng pulled to 5-5, but McHale won the final two points to close out the match.
"It was tougher than the score showed, the whole match," McHale continued. "Obviously, the second set was tough, it kept going back and forth -- I was up a break, then she would come back, it was really back and forth. But I’m really happy that I stayed tough and was able to close it out."